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Chaos in Oakland, or dance party? Revelers prevent ambulances from passing as violence ensues on new holiday

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Jessica Flores

San Francisco Chronicle

The Oakland shooting that left one dead and seven people injured at Lake Merritt last weekend appeared to have been a gang-related feud between two San Francisco groups, Oakland police officials said Monday.

Investigator Leo Sanchez said multiple shooters were involved at the shooting Saturday at Lake Merritt, where nearly 10,000 people came out to celebrate the first federally designated Juneteenth.

None of the shooters have been identified.

Oakland police said they are working with San Francisco Police Department’s Gang Task Force to identify the shooters.

Sanchez said the police department’s investigation so far suggested that rival “gang or group members” met amid the festivities at the lake. The nature of the feud between the two groups was not disclosed Monday. Sanchez added that there was “no evidence” that individuals involved in the shooting had ties to Oakland gangs.

“Most of the people involved in this shooting were from outside the area,” Armstrong said.

One of the victims, identified as a 22-year-old San Francisco man, died at a local hospital, police said. His name has not been released yet pending notification of next of kin.

“This weekend was a tragedy,” said the Rev. Damita Davis-Howard, director of Oakland’s Ceasefire, an organization that seeks to reduce gang violence and shootings.

“The kind of celebration that was happening around Juneteenth. My dad is from Texas, we live and breathe Juneteenth. It’s about history, about cultural pride and, unfortunately, it was marred by gun violence that we have been seeing all too often here in Oakland.”

Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said there were more than 60 officers at the lake in response to the large crowds.

“We didn’t anticipate that many people would come to violate this sacred space,” Armstrong said, referring to the Juneteenth celebrations. “This event meant so much to so many people.”

Armstrong said some first responders encountered people unsympathetic to the incident, describing throngs of people — some of whom were dancing — preventing ambulances from passing as medics attempted to attend to the wounded.

Videos posted online by witnesses showed an ambulance stopped and surrounded by people, with some dancing beside or on the hood of the vehicle and a man throwing a football from the roof.

Police received reports of shots fired at 6:22 p.m. Saturday in the 2200 block of Lakeshore Avenue, where there were nearly 5,000 people. Two unidentified men with guns running from the area “immediately after the shooting” were arrested. Police said they recovered two firearms. They later determined the men were not involved in the shooting..

Oakland police and Crime Stoppers of Oakland are offering a $40,000 reward for information leading to arrests in this case. Anyone with information, video or photos of this incident should contact Oakland police’s Homicide Division at 510-238-3821.

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